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The Gospel?

May 2, 2012

I love God’s word.

I love His word because it is the only dependable, objective, veracious literature ever written, or that ever will be written.  I love God’s word because it is the complete guidebook for living the human life.  I love God’s word for it is the message of life.  I love God’s word for it is the Gospel.  It doesn’t just contain the Gospel, it is the Gospel!  Whether I’m studying the law in the Old Testament or the atonement in the New Testament, I’m studying the Gospel.  The law shows me my disease, the atonement shows me the cure.  My pastor put it this way:

“The law is holy and it’s divine, in that it’s the holy, divine, diagnostic tool that lets us know that something’s wrong, but the law will never heal you, never!…the law is diagnostic, but Jesus Christ is the cure.”

“…when Christ imputes to us His righteousness and takes from us…God’s wrath towards us…Jesus is the diagnostic now…you are set free to pursue God and pursue Christ because [now] the diagnostic isn’t always telling you you’re too sick and you’re too nasty to come before Him.”  (Matt Chandler, February 26, 2012, “The Diagnostic and the Cure”

Without the law, I wouldn’t understand or appreciate the atonement.  Without the atonement, the law would simply cause me to be hopeless, for I could never live up to that standard!

This is precisely why I love all of God’s word and precisely why doctrine, or dogma, is so important.  The entirety of scripture and the doctrine derived from scripture is how I understand the Gospel and all of its ramifications.   You can’t appreciate the implications of sin without understanding the righteous character of God.   You can’t fully understand the implication of imputed righteousness without understanding the implication of imputed guilt.  You can’t separate the atonement from the law.  I once heard a country preacher put it this way: “…you have to get ’em lost before they can be saved.”  Of course, we recognize that it’s the Holy Spirit who convicts the elect of their sin, but the  point is that the whole scripture teaches the Gospel and it is necessary to understand and to study the scripture, and thoroughly and consistently communicate the scripture to the lost, for the Holy Spirit works through the communication of the scripture.  This is why 2 Timothy 3:16 says:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (ESV)

Unfortunately, the message that has become the standard for more and more churches is the “self-help” gospel:  life isn’t what you want so accept the love of Jesus and he’ll make everything OK.  You’ll feel better about yourself, you’ll make more money, your kids will be good and they’ll associate with other good kids and you’ll have the “Father Knows Best” life.  I heard it communicated this way at a funeral a few years ago: “Let Jesus permeate your life.”  This was as close as the pastor came to communicating the Gospel.  The whole message was about how great the deceased person had been and that she couldn’t do it on her own, she had Jesus to help her along the way.  He could have substituted Budha, Krishna or any other false god and the message would have been exactly the same.

This is not to say that we must offer a survey of systematic theology before the lost are saved, but we should communicate the basics of the Gospel:

  • There is a standard set by God
  • No man is capable of meeting that standard
  • The consequence of missing that standard is death, which includes separation from God & eternal punishment
  • God himself sent Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten son, the perfect, sinless sacrifice to incur the consequence of our sin through death on a cross as our substitute, which completely paid the price, as evidenced by the bodily resurrection of Christ on the third day
  • The response to which is repentance & faith in Christ alone as the complete payment for our sin and the one who keeps and perfects us forever.
  • The result of repentance and faith in Christ alone is a new life; this new life is always evidenced by change as each, individual believer grows in the grace and knowledge of Jesus through the study of the scripture and the consistent fellowship with other believers as he is empowered by the Holy Spirit.  This changed life is a life of grace and freedom, not that you should sin that “grace may abound,” but freedom to respond in obedience to God and His word out of  love and gratitude, in order that we may glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

You notice there’s no promise of prosperity, a good job or even a happy family.  In fact, if you truly follow Christ, your spouse might leave you, you might lose your job and your children might think you’re nuts!  The promise is that God will keep us forever and He will give us the grace and strength to persevere through anything that comes our way.  Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever!

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